Virginia’s post-presidential election gubernatorial contest is poised, once again, to be the most competitive of this off-year’s races and once again test its unique status as a traditional bellwether for a new president. With the matchup set between former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin, both parties will face critical messaging tests in the wake of the 2020 election. But with early polling showing a close race that’s sure to be the most expensive statewide contest ever in the Old Dominion, it’s clear this race no longer simply has the potential to become engaged but is now already there. As such, we are moving our rating from Likely to Lean Democrat.

As we wrote after last month’s GOP convention, Youngkin’s victory over several more problematic potential candidates was the best possible outcome for Republicans. The former Carlyle CEO, who’s worth approximately $254 million, has already been self-funding his bid and will at least match, or likely exceed, McAuliffe, the former Democratic Party top fundraiser, on the money front. The Republican is already using that advantage on air,

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